The 7 Steps to Slow-Cooked Success

Strategy / Practice Management / Business Growth / 5 May 2021

A great business, like a memorable meal, starts with paying attention to lots of little things and not trying to do everything at once. 

For advice businesses fired up with an entrepreneurial vision, the rare commodity is rarely new ideas but an inability to focus on just one idea at a time. 

It’s completely understandable that once you’re excited by the potential for growth, you just want to get on with it and build a world class business by next week. 

But steady on there! While I’m the last person to want to get in the way of all that pent up energy, my experience suggests one of the biggest dangers of business principals in the early stages of business transitions is trying to do everything at once. 

The result of these scattershot efforts so often is that you just end up firing randomly at moving targets, never stopping to take and breath and recall what you’re aiming for. 

This doesn’t mean you stop altogether either. The opposite of unfocused energy is not unfocused lethargy. It’s a calm and deliberate step-by-step strategy that lays a solid foundation for what comes next. 

Think of it this way. An expert chef does not prepare for a banquet by throwing himself into the kitchen and beginning to cook. He starts by thinking about the occasion, the guests, the available ingredients, the staff, the setting and the timing. He starts early. 

Likewise, the most successful advice firms take nothing for granted. They go back to the very beginning and form a clear idea of who they are, what they believe, what they have to offer, and how they can effectively deliver it. 

So let’s set out the best practice process step by step: 

Step 1: Reflect on Your Values: Yes, you want to make a living, but why are you doing this in particular? What do you stand for? What are the principles that guide your business? Making explicit your desire to act with integrity, to pursue the highest ethical standards and to put the welfare of your clients at the heart of everything you do provides a very strong platform for everything that comes next. 

Step 2: Do a Stock Take:  You’ve decided you want to head in a new direction, but first you need to look at where you are now. What is working and what is not working? So often, the parts that aren’t working stem from the fact that you do not have a coherent view about investment or about what you as an adviser can bring to the table. Ask yourself what it is you are selling and what you are doing for people.· 

Step 3: Go Back to School: You don’t necessarily have to start hitting the books again. But you owe it to yourself to research the best ideas for delivering great outcomes for your clients and a sound basis for your business. That means getting away from the day-to-day grind for a little time to do some solid research. The aim is to ensure you clearly understand the investments you are offering and how they work. 

Step 4 – Finalise Your Investment Philosophy:  If you don’t have a clear idea of your investment principles your clients are unlikely to have a successful experience. The danger is you just end up selling product without any conviction. With a coherent and articulated philosophy, grounded in key building blocks, you have a foundation to come back to, irrespective of the ups and downs of markets. 

Step 5 – Build Your Portfolios: This is easier once you are clear on your values, philosophy, and client needs and goals. How does the APL, offered via the licensee or platform, match what you are trying to achieve? Do you need external assistance in ensuring product recommendations are in clients’ best interests? The selection of a strong investment committee is critical in helping you put these pieces together. 

Step 6 – Set a Transition Process: Again, this part is easier if you have completed the previous steps effectively and address change systemically. Once you’ve established the process scope, choose your project champion, who can provide the oversight while breaking down the big tasks into bite-sized chunks. Given the scale and breadth of the tasks, consider the timeline. Sometimes a big bang change is better. 

Step 7: Communicate the Change: Communications is much easier if three elements are in place. First, everyone understands clearly what the change is and why it has been undertaken. Second, you all believe this is the right way to go. Third, you all can articulate the benefits. From there it is about mechanics – a great website (examples here and here), social media, video, written materials and discovery processes.  

Like that banquet we mentioned earlier, building a thriving practice that delivers good outcomes for clients and success for you starts with best practice processes. Trying to do it all at once risks spreading your efforts too thinly and leaving out elemental, but nevertheless key, steps that can provide the foundation for success later on. 

And remember, this is a framework. The chef needs workarounds if key ingredients aren’t available. Likewise, you need to build flexibility into the process, so that when timelines don’t match or resources aren’t available, you have workarounds. In other words, you have freedom and flexibility but within set boundaries. 

This success is painstakingly produced. But slow-cooked success, like the best food, provides the best outcomes of all.

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